The Matoaca Warriors clinched their second consecutive Conference 12 Championship on Saturday. Neal Richards earned his second All-Academic honor and second Wrestler of the Year accolade in the first two years of Conference 12. For Matoaca, all things were right in the wrestling world.
Eleven of 12 participants advanced to their respective weight class finals. The one that did not, Matthew Lockhart (145), placed third. Brandon Woody (106), Sam Braswell (113), Markus Taborn (126), Adam Wilmer (132), Joseph Nicholson (138), Richards (152), Patrick Grier (195), Hunter Kerns (220) and Anthony Helm (285), were all Conference 12 Champions. Yamique Webb (160) and Alvonte Jones (182) finished second.
Taborn’s (126) pin took just 51 seconds, while Helm (285) and Richards (152) took 1:03 and 1:15 respectively. There’s no way around it and no other adjective to describe it – Matoaca was dominant. The defending 5A State Champions are favorites to repeat again, with predicted individual championships coming from Woody (106), Wilmer (132), Richards (152), and Helm (285).
Richards is considered to be perhaps the strongest wrestler in the state pound-for-pound and is going for his fourth state championship in as many years.
The entire Matoaca team qualified for this weekend’s 5A South Region tournament at Clover Hill High School. They weren’t alone in that feat, as there were bright spots across the board for all Conference 12 teams, including L.C. Bird and Meadowbrook.
The Skyhawks had another conference champion this year in Hunter Hamilton at 160 pounds. 2014-2015 marks the second year that Hamilton was able to win. Initially, he trailed Webb (Matoaca) in points but was able to reverse a hold and wrap up Webb in a small package. Celebrating with two backflips, the crowd erupted.
“I’m so thankful for the opportunity that L.C. Bird has given me to wrestle,” said Hamilton. “I’m so glad to be a part of this program’s growth.”
Despite having just one conference champion this year, (Khalil Kimbrough, who won last year, was in attendance), there were some surprises for L.C. Bird in the tournament. Alex Alford (138) was one of those, when he upset top-seeded Van Dempster (Manchester) in his bracket and earned the right to fight for the conference crown. Jonas Kee (132) had a tough draw in Wilmer of Matoaca but finished second, a sure fire help for seeding in this weekend’s regional tournament. Nasir Mitchell (120) and Jamal Tuppince (220) notched third place finishes as well. The Skyhawks placed fifth in the Conference.
Meadowbrook did not have a finalist, but had four combatants finish in the top four. Rivers Elliott (113) and Kevin Williams (195) placed third, while Jonathan Argueta (145) and Jasmine Weaver (106) placed fourth. The Monarchs finished sixth in the Conference.
Thomas Dale enjoyed a solid day at the Conference 3 tournament out west in Franklin County, placing third as a team. Winners were Corey Leonard (145), last year’s 6A state champion at 138, and Josh Parker (285), the team’s heavyweight. Chris Karmann (106), Angelo Scott (120), and Octavien English (170) were runner-ups while Blake Correa (113) and “Main” Wilson (160) brought home third place on the podium. Chris Collins (152) placed fourth and qualified for regionals.
Leonard, who’s regarded as the best technical wrestler in perhaps the entire state has a good shot to make a run at a second state title. The senior has been heavily recruited for wrestling and is now mulling a scholarship at Hampden-Sydney, which would reportedly allow him to wrestle and play football. Leonard said that he also may attend college without wrestling.
The Knights will compete in the 6A South Region tournament next weekend at Oscar Smith High School in Chesapeake, on Friday and Saturday.